Wedding Reception Art Comes Alive

... Stoneham artist Sheila Foley is an event artist for many occasions.

by Debbi Collar

Answering an ad from Craigslist led Stoneham artist Sheila Foley into an
unusual artistic adventure.

An accomplished artist who was recently featured on Channel 5s "Chronicle"
program and works as a middle school art teacher by day spends many a
weekend at wedding receptions.

She is a "Live Event" Painter who creates a unique gift for newly married
couples. Yet she was hesitant about taking on that role at first when she
answered that Craigslist ad for an event artist. "I had been cutting silhouettes
at Colonial events so I figured
that was "event art'. Instead,
the woman who had placed the ad wrote back that she "was looking for
someone to paint her wedding reception

"Oh I don't think I could do that," Foley remembers telling the woman who
was in search of an event painter for her wedding Foley was cautious about
presenting her artwork from start to near finish as wedding guests watched
her work. But the woman was persistent, "she tried to convince me but I told
her I would need practice first. Her wedding wasn't for a few months. "Foley
thought about it and made a decision to give it a try.

Despite her accomplishments over the years as an artist, Foley still did not
feel she was ready for painting live at wedding receptions, yet she was
willing to take on another adventure and it sounded interesting.  

Foley's accomplishments include:

Two portraits at Stoneham Public Library. One of Dr. William Heath, who was
one of the founders of Stoneham Public Library and another of Stoneham's
famous residents, Olympic figure skater Nancy Kerrigan. Pastels of Stoneham
Center in two periods at the Stoneham Fire Station another pastel about
Stoneham's historical accomplishments hangs at Town Hall and a third
pastel of a Stoneham Spartan at one of the public schools in town. Other
artwork done by Foley stretches across communities such as Billerica,
Chelmsford and Haverhill. Included in those areas are a portrait of pitcher
Tom Glavin (at one time with the Atlanta Braves) for his hometown of
Billerica, an illustrated map of the Chelmford Historic District which now
hangs in the Chelmsford Center For The Arts and there is an outdoor mural
of local author John Bellairs in downtown Haverhill.

Illustrations Foley has done appear in books such as "Leonard Bernstein,
American's Maestro."

She edited and wrote introductory material and poetry for "Faith Unfurled,"
"The Pilgrim's Quest for Freedom," wrote and co-illustrated "Whistler's
London, A Bridge Through Time," and has illustrated many children's history
magazines published by "Cobblestone."

Her first internationally published poem, "Slow to Ungar," appeared in Fiddler
Magazine in 2004:

So, who do you turn to when hoping to hone a new skill in preparation for a
new venture into Live Event Painting at wedding receptions?

Your hair-stylist of course. "My hair stylist Tricia had a son who was getting
married the next month so I asked her if I could practice on their (the bride
and groom's) wedding.  The answer was yes, the couple welcomed having an
artist painting at their wedding.  The artist and her product were there for
guests to view. Foley does admit to being nervous as she set up her easels
and paints for that first wedding reception," I was a little nervous but not bad
because expectations were low
and they were not paying for
it. If I failed  miserably, it would be OK." Foley was in for a surprise though,
her audience
(guests at the wedding) enjoyed the experience as did the artist. "The
painting was fun to do and everyone
enjoyed it."

Foley had successfully launched her now four year business as a live event
painter at wedding receptions.

As the newly betrothed celebrate their marriage, Foley stands, brush in hand,
at her easel and paints a scene from the reception "live." Painting live isn't an
easy task and takes an
experienced painter, "guests move
around and there
are lighting changes" she explains, throughout the reception. Some artists
may also be thrown off as guests not only watch the artist in residence but
also tend to discuss the work being done. Foley is not thrown off by this and
enjoys the interaction.

Her focus is usually the choice of the bride and groom. "I like to meet
couples ahead of time," she explains , "usually at the venue and with the
wedding coordinator. We have to work out where I will set up, my access to
the sink, lighting, etc…."  She also notes that wedding receptions are where
she sets up her easel rather than the ceremony. Referring to painting at the
ceremony itself, the artist says,  "There simply isn't enough time."  

Couples who hire the artist can expect to see "approximately 75 percent of
the artwork, acrylic on canvas, complete "on site at the reception."  
There are two different sizes of paintings Foley offers as well, the choice
again being up to the bride and groom or those who will present this unique
gift to the couple. Foley says "I offer two sizes, 18x24 and 24x 36 inches.  
the smaller size works well for more intimate weddings or gatherings and
the larger size for ballrooms."

Foley's talents not only encompass live event paintings but watercolor, pen
and ink sketches and occasionally making jewelry but she has a musical
talent as well. She enjoys playing the violin, penny whistle, guitar and she
plays the fife.

She has her own studio in Woburn in which she teaches art classes to adults
or continues to work on wedding reception paintings. Recently she has also
taken on another "live event" role and her business is expanding to include
graduation parties. That's not all though - she can be at many venues as an
"event artist" painting live for many occasions, not just wedding receptions.
A member of the Melrose Chamber of Commerce as well, she makes the time
to do live event painting of artisans at the Victorian Fair.  
Engaged couples and others interested in live event paintings can view
Foley's artwork on her website at She can also be
contacted by email-that address is
Her first ever live event photo (pictured at the top of this article) was sent to
The Melrose Mirror by the
artist as a courtesy photo.
Other photos by Stringer Debbi Collar.

She calls it her "practice piece."

June 6, 2014

You can search below for any word or words in all issues of the Melrose Mirror.
| Return to section | The Front Page | Write to us |

Write to us